The NHS Constitution & The Berwick Report: service user involvement & co-design

What a fabulous introduction to The NHS Constitution AND how it can be applied in maternity services user engagement and involvement #MSLC – a must read!

Birth Talk

Notes for MSLC Members & Maternity Commissioners The NHS Constitution, and the 160-page Handbook, that accompanies it are interesting & exciting documents. Worth a browse if you are interes…

Source: The NHS Constitution & The Berwick Report: service user involvement & co-design

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Review of the “Celebrating Continuity, Rhetoric into Reality, Policy into Practice” Conference

I was delighted to be asked to chair this conference. I was so impressed by so many of the women who spoke about their experiences and why continuity of midwifery care matters to them, and by midwives talking about the practical details of delivering continuity models of care.

Bornstroppy's Blog

The 13th April brought us “Celebrating Continuity, Rhetoric into Reality, Policy into Practice” a conference created through a collaboration between AIMS, RCM, The Positive Birth Movement, Neighbourhood Midwives and a Birmingham NHS Trust.

So many exciting themes came out of the conference, together with discussions of common concerns and their solutions.  One quote from Beverley Turner underlined the whole of the day, “Women should be utterly supported throughout birth, and never just “winging it with a stranger”.  I would equally say that midwives should be able to support women through birth having clearly understood their needs and wishes via a relationship built through pregnancy, and not left just “winging it with a stranger”.

An interesting comment from Baroness Julia Cumberledge, following a question by Ruth Weston of Aquabirths, addressed the frustration of so many campaigners that CCGs were unaccountable, even to Monitor.  She announced that she was working in a team…

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Maternity Advice and Action Groups – A joy and inspiration #MSLCs


10 MSLCs in South London

Across South London there are 10 MSLCs (see below). Who knew that? No one, because no one made it their business to count or encourage collaboration, until now.

Multi-disciplinary maternity groups provide a great way for women’s views and priorities for change to be incorporated into strategic plans and the local maternity specifications. They involve current and recent services, more experienced ‘parent leaders’, maternity professionals ad commissioners – that’s an MSLC, or maternity services liaison committee, to use the full title.

In my role as patient and public involvement (PPI) lead for the maternity research group in South London[1], I have been gathering together leaders from these maternity advice and action groups (MSLCs) across South London. It’s been a joy and an inspiration. There is such a huge strategic potential out there!

In South London the established MLSCs are:

  • Epsom and St Helier
  • Kingston
  • St George’s
  • Croydon
  • King’s
  • Guy’s and St Thomas’s
  • Lewisham
  • Bromley
  • Bexley and
  • Greenwich.

These maternity forums provide advice to commissioners and providers of maternity services. They sometimes have different (more friendly, accessible) public-facing names, but essentially they are maternity services liaison committees (MSLCs), first set up following the Maternity Care in Action reports.

Some are doing really strategic work, well supported by their local clinical commissioning group (CCG), which has a responsibility for safety and quality assurance of services, and for ensuring service users are engaged and involved.  NHS England’s Transforming participation in health and care, says Commissioners should:

‘Listen and act upon patient and carer feedback at all stages of the commissioning cycle – from needs assessment to contract management.’

The National Maternity Review, recognised that:

‘Maternity Service Liaison Committees (MSLCs) provide a means of ensuring the needs of women and professionals are listened to and we saw how effective they could be when properly supported and led.’

Introducing the report, Julia Cumberlege  said:

‘I urge you to play your part in creating the maternity services you want for your family and your community. Voice your opinions, just as you have during this review, and challenge those providing the services to meet your expectations.’

In contrast, despite the best efforts of numerous MSLC leaders (chairs), there are CCGs in South London, and other areas, who give no financial or management and administrative support. Or they do not understand or fully respect the independence of the MSLC, and the role of the MSLC chair.

Perhaps this is not surprising, when the guidance on engaging with maternity service users and working collaboratively, using community engagement and co-design techniques, needs to be updated.

A new online resource

Fortunately, NHS England is working on updated online  guidance for MSLCs, with input from myself, Gillian Fletcher, and lots of service users who are active on local forums. The guidance is due for publication in the summer. Watch this space.

South London MSLC network

I’ve been really fortunate to be able to work with Laura James in South London. In other health circles, she would be called a ‘patient leader’. Starting, years ago now ,from her own experience, she has become highly influential in her local area, becoming chair of the Bromley MSLC.  Together we’ve set up a South London MSLCs Facebook group for all those involved with MSLCs across our patch.

There is a role for leaders. Laura’s been developing her knowledge andhoning her skills. She works directly with pregnant women and new parents both walking the patch in NHS clinics and wards and as an NCT practitioner, hearing concerns and positive stories week after week. You can read more about Laura’s insights into MSLCs on the MatExp website – home of lots of other great information – and more about  Laura’s work as reported in NCT’s journal Perspective. 

Inspiring things MSLCs/MSLC activists are doing:

  • Creating new infographics to inform and empower women attending clinics
  • Surveys of women’s experiences to give women a voice
  • Sharing stories written up in blogs
  • Co-designing birth centres/midwifery-led units
  • Organising conferences (see Michelle Quashie)
  • Identifying local priorities for change and working on them as a team in a SMART way

What you can do

If you care about making maternity services personalised, respectful, kind, responsive and geared to improving wellbeing and health for women and babies:

  • Network with other committed people and activists. Join MatExp Facebook group. Get involved with the Positive Birth Movement Join your MSLC or local maternity users’ group. If there isn’t one, talk to your local Consultant Midwife, Head of Midwifery, PALS service, Healthwatch &/or maternity commissioner. With social media (SoMe) it’s never been easier to set things up.
  • If you’re on an MSLC/maternity forum – join ‘MSLC leaders’ on Facebook and any local networks, such as the one we have for South London MSLCs and follow/use #MSLC on Twitter.

Find out more

Know about what local commissioners and services should be doing to support service user involvement

There are lots of MSLC resources and good practice case studies on the NCT website. (Scroll right down to the bottom and look in ‘Related documents’, too.)

Need help to get inspired or to get your MSLC moving? Take a look at Running your Maternity Services Liaison Committee: A practical guide from good practice to trouble shooting

[1] something called CLAHRC (pronounced  ‘clark’, and an abbreviation for Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care)

PPI in CLAHRC South London

Grieving for the unknown

And here is the follow-up blog from the same author

Life of MummyB

Today an old friend celebrated the impending arrival of her 3rd child.

Today I cried for the 3rd child we would never have.

Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you expect they will or hope they do. In my head I always dreamed of our perfect family of me, OH and our 3 amazing kids. In my head pregnancy would be enjoyed, loved, cherished and relished. In reality it didn’t work out that way and now I’m left feeling like I’m grieving for the loss of a child I never knew and never will.

Its not that I resent my friends 3rd pregnancy or that I want to take away from her enjoyment and excitement in any way, but this was another reminder of how Mother Natures and my plans didn’t match.

I’ve writen before about how having Hyperemesis Gravidarum in my last two pregnancies effected me and the…

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I HATE being Pregnant! There, I said it!

Women’s stories. So important for improving the quality and safety of care. Vital if we are to achieve personalised care for all women. But they must be heard and acted on. Great blogs like this are an important first step.

Life of MummyB

I first shared this account of my pregnancies on @HeartMummys Blog, but wanted to share it here too as my first ever blog 🙂 (Heart Mummy’s Blog)


Recently I have had the chance to chat with the most amazing Health Visitor and it got me thinking on how my life has changed since I became a mummy and also to reflect on my experiences of pregnancy and childbirth.

Looking back, I knew my journey into motherhood would never be an easy one, my husband is in the British Armed Forces and in the last few years we have lived in two different countries, 5 different houses and have been forced to live separately twice. This combined with the fact that I was told I was infertile and could not conceive made things challenging to say the least, but against all the odds, after over 4 years of trying…

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To talk or not to talk to the tabloid press about women’s issues

Such a conundrum. Talking may get your story ‘out there’ but you have little control over the context. Some tabloid press, notably the Daily Mail, are known to be serial offenders in messing with source material. They too frequently take someone’s experience or considered view and blow up bits of it out of context to tell their own – often divisive – yarn. Or they use a case study as a springboard for their own rant.

The media loves a black and white plot line with goodies and baddies; parties in conflict. Measured discussion about what might be going on and why, or what could be done to address a problem, isn’t tabloid fare.

Social media – limited reach unless you’re famous

Should we just use social media instead? Or does that only reach the already converted? Unless a Facebook group or Tweeter has a huge following they may not reach a big enough, diverse enough, audience.

There are always really interesting stories and questions on the #MatExp Facebook support group, which also campaigns.  #MatExp has over 1,500 followers. It’s a big group. In comparison however, according to Wikipedia, the Daily Mail (the only newspaper with over 50% of female readers) has an average daily circulation of over 1.5 million and is read online by 100 million unique visitors per month.  That’s a huge number of readers. So, if you want to get a message out, it is tempting.


#MatExp aims to provide a safe place for women to share their ‘experiences of maternity care, and what really makes a difference to that experience’; to ‘get health care professionals (in and beyond the NHS) and local communities to listen and work in partnership with women and families to improve maternity experiences’; and to empower women, partners and community groups, and enable professionals, to ‘to take action to improve maternity experiences’.

You could easily spend all day in Facebook and Twitter following unfolding conversations and putting in your two-penny worth. I was engaged this morning by a #MatExp story from Laura Wood.

Laura’s story, Laura’s experience

Laura decided to talk to the Daily Mail about her traumatic birth because she feels birth trauma isn’t recognised or understood well enough. The Mail used Laura’s story as the hook for a much longer piece published under the provocative headline: Turf war on the maternity ward: As doctors and midwives clash over the best way to give birth, how babies are being put at risk.

Laura felt the journalist was ‘lovely, and worked with me on the sections about myself, throughout’. In contrast the photographer was straightforwardly unreconstructed. He told Laura to “put on a nice pair of heels”. She both resisted, knowing that the issue she wanted to get across wasn’t about how she looked, but also got a bit caught up in the Mail machine. She says ‘I was shocked to be treated like it was the fashion section …we compromised and I look a bit like I’m going to a wedding.’  She felt it had to be give and take in order to get her story into the public domain, something she was willing to do to raise public awareness on an important, often unrecognised, issue for women.

I have sympathy with Laura’s decision and I don’t know what the answer is.

Beware of midwife-bashing 

There is a battle royal being fought about how much midwifery-led services should be developed. And some dirty-play going on. I think it is important not to engage in midwife-bashing or be used in mis-information. So beware.

Midwives are not perfect as a profession. They make mistakes. They may be naive at times. They may be idealistic or they may be lacking in confidence and vision. They are human and subject to limitations like any of us. (They are also well led and their practice is regulated, so poor performance should be picked up.) But midwifery care is special and important and there is huge potential for women to benefit from it. See for example the Lancet journal’s Midwifery care series. Most obstetricians recognise this and work closely with their midwifery colleagues. Most midwives and obstetricians understand that mutual respect and team working is vital in order to ensure that women receive high quality care.

It doesn’t help women service users, or midwives (mainly women) and obstetricians (increasingly women), to have silly stories about turf wars. It perpetuates conflict, resentment and fear.

Feminism and getting your voice heard

We need to focus on growing respect, openness and joint multi-disciplinary training; on  improving communication, especially listening, and learning from practice and experience.

The complaints process, Maternity Services Liaison Committees (MSLCs), and local clinical networks should help women (in all of those groups mentioned above) address individual cases and/or ‘care pathways’ where quality has not been good enough.

I think women’s voices are heard more now than in the 1970s when my first babies were born. I feel very proud to have been part of ‘Changing Childbirth’ in the 1990s and in all of the networking, reviewing of evidence and the consciousness and confidence raising that led to it. Feminism was important then and it is now, and so is the Sociology of Childbirth, which Ann Oakley has contributed so much towards ( and Now we have had another major maternity services review and we must use it to ensure that we get more progressive, more woman-centred services.

I say, ‘Well done’ to Laura for making your voice heard. If you feel that you had to compromise, or feel hurt by some of the reactions to the article. Use the experience to inform your next action. But don’t give up.

Laura’s blog

I can see from Laura’s blog that that’s unlikely. Despite being a PhD student, the mother of a toddler and someone who struggles with past trauma and PND, she finds time to write and network and articulate what needs to change.

It’s so important that people do not suffer in silence but tell their stories and find constructive ways of making sure they lead to improvements in knowledge, understanding and care.

We can all use our powerful feelings, personal knowledge and broader insights to make a positive difference for ourselves and for other women.

Would I trust a journalist?

Would I trust a journalist? Probably only one whose track record I had been able to check out online.

Would I take my story to the Daily Mail or other tabloid? I’d want to have a firm commitment that they were not out to bash midwives or midwifery care.


I would like to thank Laura Wood for reading this blog in draft form and agreeing to its publication.

For more on #MatExp you can visit the website and follow #MatExp on Twitter.

Do visit Laura’s blog:  including where she says:

‘We cannot tell traumatised women that it would have been okay if only they were cleverer or better-prepared or more resourceful or more determined or more Zen. We cannot tell new mothers that they have already failed. The cost is too high.

I cannot help but note the comparison here with blaming victims of sexual assault. Is this just what we do to women? In some ways, being a birth trauma survivor is not dissimilar to being a survivor of sexual assault. … We need a cultural shift in how we think about women’s experiences. And we need to be more mindful of our language.’


Safe care is personalised care – National Review of Maternity Services 2016


If we can increase the proportion of births supported by midwifery care, we will be able to reduce the cost of medical interventions  

The 2016 review of maternity services is especially interesting, coming at a time when the NHS is under huge financial pressure, there is concern about the safety of services stretched to capacity, and questions about how out of hours services compare with services during working hours. We need expansion of midwifery-led care to enable NICE guidance on intrapartum care, postnatal care and antenatal care to be delivered.  Furthermore, Julia Cumberlege, who chaired the review, has the rare and valuable perspective of having carried out a detailed review of maternity services 25 years ago. She knows a lot of the issues and challenges in improving maternity care, such as getting the right kinds of monitoring and interventions to women with a more complex pregnancy or significant risk factors while making real strides to keep pregnancy and birth as normal and straightforward as possible, with a focus on prevention of illness, and provision of good social and psychological support.

If here is one key message from the new report it is about the need for personalised care and care plans, centred on the woman, her baby and her family:

‘Every woman, every pregnancy, every baby and every family is different. Therefore, quality services (by which we mean safe, clinically effective and providing a good experience) must be personalised.’

The report says in the introduction:

‘We found almost total unanimity from mothers that they want their midwife to be with them from the start, through pregnancy, birth and then after birth. Time and again mothers said that they hardly ever saw the same professional twice, they found themselves repeating the same story because their notes had not been read. That is unacceptable, inefficient and must change.’

The report is strong on women’s autonomy and right to make decisions about their care:

Safe care is personalised care. Women have made it abundantly clear to us that they want to be in control of their care, in partnership with their healthcare professionals. With this control comes a responsibility which mothers must accept and professionals must support – that personal health and fitness are integral to safe and fulfilling childbearing.’

The report makes reference to the Morecambe Bay maternity services enquiry, one of whose recommendations was that there should be an active MSLC (maternity services liaison committee) for local maternity services, to enable concerns and complaints expressed by parents to be responded to promptly by managers, commissioners and service user advocates. This report also highlights the role of MSLCs:

‘Maternity Service Liaison Committees (MSLCs) provide a means of ensuring the needs of women and professionals are listened to and we saw how effective they could be when properly supported and led.’

What we need now is detailed guidance for commissioners on and local health economies on how to bring that about. As MSLCs are an unusual multi-disciplinary independent advisory body, structures for creating a budget and paying honoraria to those who do the work week-in week-out are not always clear-cut. Yet it is possible to share good practice and to learn from the solutions that some CCGs have found.  The current guidance has been refreshed. Now that the Review Report has been published, NHS England should be able to finalise the guidance and publish it.

Midwifery care and continuity models of care

The report calls for more continuity of midwifery carer, with teams of 4 to 6 midwives, working with obstetric and neonatal specialists. On midwifery staffing and the move to a continuity of carer model of midwifery staffing, the report says:

‘Once rollout begins the NHS should achieve an annual increase of 20% of births having continuity of carer each year. In line with the NHS funding settlement, we have assumed that national rollout will begin in in 2018/19. Continuity of carer will be delivered by a caseload model of midwives working in small teams of 4-6. International literature on caseloads per midwife generally implies a range from 30- 40 births per midwife.’ It goes on to add ‘However, there may be opportunities to test more flexible models.’

There will, the report says, also be an average of 10 minutes more time allocated to each antenatal and postnatal appointment, allowing more discussion and support time. This will be allocated as needed, so some women will get longer visits and others less of an increase.

On the transition to continuity, the report recognises that moving to a different model of care – a continuity model of midwifery care – involves a big change, something that wasn’t costed for roll-out after publication of Changing Childbirth in the early 1990s. The authors state:

‘To fundamentally shift the model of maternity care, each local maternity system requires local leadership and support to manage the transition for a time limited period. This has been costed on the basis of project management and clinical resource to support change locally and training for all staff that will be moving to a continuity of carer model.’

The team address at high level what is needed when there are problems: a national standardised investigation process is needed for when things go wrong. Cultural values of kindness, honesty and openness should be further supported by a system of rapid resolution and redress, encouraging learning and ensuring that families quickly receive the help they need.

More emphasis is needed to deliver better postnatal and perinatal mental health care, to address ‘the historic underfunding and provision in these two vital areas’. Number one in the list of needed developments:

‘There should be significant investment in perinatal mental health services in the community and in specialist care, as recommended by NHS England’s independent Mental Health Taskforce.’

Multi-professional training should become the norm, both before qualifying and as part of continuing professional development, to build-in fundamental understanding and respect for each other’s skills and perspectives.

Community hubs – a one-stop shop for women and families – are recommended. A spin on children’s centres, perhaps?

Community hubs should be established, where maternity services, particularly ante- and postnatally, are provided alongside other family-orientated health and social services provided by statutory and voluntary agencies.’

Commissioning and clinical networks

There is a focus on monitoring quality and safety in maternity services and taking action at all levels, including a ‘champion for maternity services’ on the provider trust board. The report recognises the need to refer rapidly when additional services are needed and to be able to work across organisational boundaries.

The role for commissioners and clinical networks is re-emphasised (though apparently the ‘strategic’ aspect of clinical networks is being dropped. They will , having ‘responsibility for improving outcomes and reducing health inequalities’.   It is suggested that by ‘commissioning against clear outcome measures’ thy will be ‘empowering providers’ to make service improvements:

‘Professionals, providers and commissioners should come together on a larger geographical area through Clinical Networks, coterminous for both maternity and neonatal services. They should share information, best practice and learning, provide support and advise about the commissioning of specialist services to support local maternity systems.’

In my limited experience, this is very useful, but it takes skilled and motivated staff from both commissioning and the provider services, huge commitment my network members and well-prepared papers to make systems effective in moving quality and safety forwards. Many aspects of the system are outside the control of the maternity and neonatal staff, such as IT systems and data management and reporting.  Service user advocates must be involved, and ways must be created for there to be time for more relaxed discussion as well as short agenda items and formal reports. At their best, these clinical networks, could potentially function like a mega- or superstructure-MSLC.

Funding implementation

The payment system for maternity services ‘should be reformed’.  Some of the objectives identified include:

  • The need to ensure that the money follows the woman and her baby as far as possible, so as to ensure women’s choices drive the flow of money, whilst supporting organisations to work together.
  • The need to incentivise the delivery of high quality of care for all women, regardless of where they live or their health needs.
  • The challenges of providing sustainable services in certain remote and rural areas.

Implementation of the review will work on a two phase basis: first, ‘establishing proof of concept’ via up to four maternity early adopter sites, followed by a national rollout phase. This phase would enable some detailed costing to be done (MN comments: postpone the expense (!) and prevent any very expensive developments form being attempted wholesale.)

’ In the first phase the NHS should trial the conclusions of the review with a number of volunteer health economies in order to establish the barriers, work out the potential solutions and share the learning widely. We are expecting that there will be up to four sites, they will run from September 2016 to September 2018 and that NHS England will make available to them a total of £8m over three financial years.’

NHS Personal Maternity Care Budget will be piloted. The report says ‘NHS England with selected CCGs should pilot the NHS Personal Maternity Care Budget scheme before national rollout. We estimate this starting by 2017 and approximately 4 CCGs or groups of CCGs will act as pioneer sites testing this model, for which £0.6m should be allocated. Following successful testing, national rollout would begin in 2018/19. The proven model to be rolled out nationally will need to be delivered within existing funding allocations by NHS England and CCGs.’ 

In addition, ‘Providers available for selection by women using their NHS Personal Maternity Care Budget might be an existing NHS trust, or a midwifery practice operating in a similar way to a GP practice.’ Midwifery practices would need to be accredited and meet standards for quality and governance arrangements. They would need to be fully integrated into community hubs, multi-disciplinary training and the clinical network for their area.  They would have ‘access to NHS facilities, including the community hub and diagnostics either in the community hub or at the hospital.’  This could include independent midwifery practices, ‘who already provide NHS services in some parts of the country. These midwifery practices will provide services to women in a similar way to other long-standing contracted providers, such as General Practitioners.’

Choice of place of birth – there is some suggestion of additional funding for new capital costs to extend choice. More fundamentally, the report says that in line with NICE recommendations, ‘meeting women’s choices more clearly’ and reducing costs to ‘meet the coming efficiency challenge’ there will be a significant increase in the proportion of births at home, in freestanding midwifery units and in alongside midwifery units.

‘As well as reflecting what some women want, care in these settings costs less when accompanied by service transformation across the local health economy. This would need to be carefully managed by local maternity systems but is essential.’

Rapid resolution and redress

The report makes recommendations about a proposed new insurance based system that the Department of Health will decide whether and when to implement. DH are ‘undertaking further modelling and research into the proposed scheme’.  The National Review team say the system should fulfil three criteria: i) provide rapid, compassionate support to parents, ii) effective learning for staff and iii) improved outcomes and reduced incidences of harm (and therefore costs).   The new insurance based system where families whose babies who had suffered harm could claim redress without the need to go through the courts. The scheme would be limited to harm occurring in term babies (37 weeks or more gestation) who were considered healthy when labour commenced, and to harm resulting in serious injury to the baby. The nature of the rapid resolution and redress scheme is that it would not be necessary to establish negligence in order to secure financial redress. The test would be one of causation: whether the harm was the probable consequence of the treatment provided or not provided during birth. An insurance assessor, working with appropriate professional and legal advice would settle claims.

I hope this summary of the key messages will encourage others to read the report in full. It will give colleagues on MSLCs an immediate handle on key themes and indicate some of the words and phrases that can be searched for in the report. No doubt there will be many column inches devoted to the recommendations and many hours of debate about the implications over following weeks and months.  The three C’s of Changing Childbirth: Choice, Control and Continuity of care and carer are revisited here. In 2016 there is more high quality evidence of effectiveness available regarding choice of place of birth, midwifery-led care and continuity models of midwifery, so there is good reason to feel that commissioners will get behind the calls. There is also more of a plan for implementation, albeit a staged plan. So much more could and should have been said about public involvement in shaping local services and identifying priorities for change based on the experiences of local women and their families. However, the role of MSLCs is acknowledged, and we must build on this. Let’s hope we will see real changes, with more truly woman-centred care becoming accessible in every area, and improved outcomes for those mothers and babies with most to benefit from improved maternity services.